July 9, 2104
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – An early morning wall collapse high over Boston Road in the Bronx on July 9, missed raining cinder blocks down on the street below, but members of organized labor charge that the incident is indicative of the ongoing dangers associated with employing poorly paid and untrained workers.
Non-union construction crews were reportedly working on the 10th floor of the proposed 12-story, 154-unit supportive residence for seniors on Wednesday morning, when the cinder block wall collapsed.
“The wall seems to have collapsed inward instead of outward where it would have landed on another building right next door,” said Ruben Colón, representative, New York City District Council of Carpenters, Area Standards Dept.
No injuries were immediately reported, but the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) has hit the publicly-funded construction project with at least two safety-related violations this year.
The violations issued last spring, involved the use of scaffolding and maintaining fall protection standards, and resulted in fines in access of $6,000.
According to the union, the workers on the Boston Road construction project lack proper safety training and are being paid substandard wages.
They are especially critical of Advanced Contracting Solutions (ACS), the sub-contractor working on the development.
“Once again these sub-standard contractors place all New Yorkers in danger by way of shoddy workmanship,” Colón said. “This time the culprit is Advanced Contracting Solutions.”
Those at the scene say that the collapsed wall was already partially rebuilt shortly after the initial failure.
“What concerns me is that they’re trying to cover it up already,” Colón added. “The wall is already halfway back up, which indicates they probably didn’t call in anybody to inspect the other walls to make sure that they are not in danger of collapsing as well.”
Department of Buildings inspectors later visited the site, but did not issue any violations.
The union charges that ACS’ overall safety record in New York City is poor, and it is also looking into questionable payroll practices.
When ground was broken last fall, the Boston Road project, located between E. 167th and E. 168th streets, was heralded as a “trailblazer,” and one of the first projects to benefit from New York State Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) capital funding.
The construction project is the result of a multi-pronged partnership between New York State Homes & Community Renewal (HRC), New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), non-profit Common Ground, and other partners, including Chase Bank.
But for those left out of the process, the continued use of public monies for projects that skirt good union jobs and the unmatched training that goes with them, is particularly galling.
“It’s our money,” Colón said. “City and state funds are being used, and we can’t bid on [the project]. We can bid on it, but we are being undercut by these companies that are not paying proper wages. They’re not paying benefits to these workers, and it hurts everybody.”
OSHA inspectors also visited the Boston Road development and are currently trying to determine if workplace safety standards were violated.